hoodwink.d enhanced


Stories and Books and You and I #

by why in cult

With yesterday’s chapter six finally out, we’re drawing near the conclusion of my first book. The book presently prints on my machine at one-hundred and eighty pages. I have about seventy more and I’m done. And you’ll have intimately followed the writing of the book over the space of a year and a half. I’m sure you know its weaknesses and its strengths. Humanity.

One of my next books will be a novel along the lines of the “Incidents” I write on my site (for example, No. 22: Wristwatches) along with sparse code and art. This time, though, I’d like to increase the reader’s involvement in the book.

First, each chapter would be released to a mailing list of persons who wanted to offer their proofreading and editing skills. Then, the chapter would be released by an RSS feed. Readers could then contribute back art and annotations. The key to this is that the main character of the book would be consciously narrating to an active readership that was given license to expand on his stories. And, likewise, reacting to the folks contributing.

For example, a reader could address an angry letter to the main character Archen. Archen could choose to reference elements from the letter and let the letter’s content detrimentally affect his mood, thereby leading him to accidentally tear off an elephant’s head.

Another reader could write a detailed history of one of the owls in the book. So then Nyen, the girl who collects owls, could debunk the essay without question!

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m not just toying with self-referential stuff here. Please. The idea is to write a book which functions smoothly and cooperatively in context with the web. The self-referential character is just a gimmick to help the reader feel at home conversing with the book.

I don’t know how I would publish such a monster. I don’t think I’d want to publish it! It would loose all its beauty removed from the participatory environment. I don’t care AT ALL about publishing it. I want to play with the medium! I want to have a lush and intrepid experience writing novels and playing story games with those of you that can get into it. I want to write dangerously, inking the words right into your palms, sans billing system, out where no one else dares to hang their most hard-earned words. Maybe a small part of me wants to change writing forever, but I’m also okay with being imprisoned and tortured and killed for being deliberately obtuse. Now that’s a writing career!

Anyway, do you have any ideas for the open editing and annotating that I’m referring to? I know books have been placed on Wikis before (err, I know of Free Culture) but this would require active contribution while the book is being released.

said on 20 May 2005 at 07:21

Where the mailing list at?

said on 20 May 2005 at 08:20

Without Wiki this will be tricky tricky.

What about blogs with Trackbacks?

It would require contributers to have their own blogs or image hosting, but it wouldn’t require active contribution.

Might me a pain following all of the trackbacks though if the project gains hundreds of contributers.

said on 20 May 2005 at 08:39

Yeah, you’re right, I think it would be a variation of a Wiki in which annotations would be placed to the side of the text. Links which would expand over the main text and could contain anything at all. I think I’d want to be sure the images were hosted with the book so that none would ever appear broken.

said on 20 May 2005 at 09:01

Geez… that sounds like quite an undertaking.

Of course, it would revolutionize publishing and be very useful for scientifc reports!

said on 20 May 2005 at 10:07

Sounds interesting; I’d give it a go.

said on 20 May 2005 at 10:12

I guess one question you really need to nail down is how this will work organizationally.

How much control do you want to maintain over the final text (as opposed to the submitted commentaries)?

said on 20 May 2005 at 12:22

Okay, reread your above description; I’m following now (I think). You’d retain editorial control of the main text, manually incorporating “patches”, and the party would happen in the wiki-esque sidebar?

said on 20 May 2005 at 12:30

Don’t forget the links which expand over the main text. I imagine those would be wiki-ish as well.

said on 20 May 2005 at 13:18

I’m having trouble visualising those. What does “expand[ing] over the main text” entail, exactly?

said on 20 May 2005 at 13:26

I’m not sure how much editorial control I’d want really. Maybe the folks doing the proofreading and editing would sift through submitted content and give it the same treatment the book gets.

said on 20 May 2005 at 14:04

Something to ponder … should chapters eventually reach a state of “done”? i.e. at that point (perhaps when the next chapter is released), no more edits are accepted, and no more commentary posted?

Avoid that effect you get when someone discovers a blog and starts threads on three-year-old posts.

BUT … editing for retroactive continuity is part of the normal writing process. It’d be a shame to lose that.

Ought we to gently archive past chapters, or shall we flatten history (gloriously) into an eternal now?

What do you think?

said on 20 May 2005 at 15:23

how about setting a date, sometime sufficiently in the future, to freeze the text? all edits and additions need to be made before, say, july 14, 2007. if the project works well within that time frame, but people still have contributions, maybe a second book could accommodate all the new material.

hieraki seems like a decent collaborative book making tool, but it probably doesn’t work in the freeform way you want here.

oh, and i volunteer to help edit, too. shazaam!

said on 20 May 2005 at 15:37

I don’t know if I want to close down editing. I mean if I could go back and branch new chapters from older chapters (or branch chapters from user-submitted writings) then the book could venture off in unseen directions, which is precisely what I’d like to foster.

I think I’d need to move away from a linear set of chapters at that point. Chapters would need to have coordinates with the space of telling the story. Perhaps organization would be by date and location. Or by parallel lines of narrative.

I’m starting to wonder if editors would be segregated from actual contribution. Not because of any ethical concerns, but just for the sake of teams and allegiances.

said on 20 May 2005 at 15:54

Hmm, editing versus contribution would be a hard choice for me, though I can understand why you would want to do that.

said on 20 May 2005 at 20:19

Sounds great. I’m all for barely controlled chaos. This sort of idea (collaborative, interactive authorship) reminds me of the game Lexicon.

I like the idea of multiple editors, separated from the unruly contributors below deck, keeping them in line and their standards high. All the while, why is up on the helm, telescope in hand and on the lookout for strange lands, occasionally muttering something about a “sunboard” and “cognac”.

said on 21 May 2005 at 15:15

I love seeing a reference to the 20 by 20 room, and Lexicon at that. RedHanded rules, rules, rules.

And I would be con-tree-beauting. If I may.

Oh, all this excites me—it actually seems fresh, new, wondrous and fantastic. All at the same time as being in tune with all the “prag” stuff of the Inspect part of this highly addictive website.

Looking forward to it.

said on 23 May 2005 at 11:55

In my own endeavors, I’ve been attempting to create a collaborative book authoring wiki, but all I have so far is a parshaly finished wiki. I like what I have done so far, but I have a long way to go before it gets to the level that I want it to be.

If you guys start a project on this then I would love to have a hand in it since I would have need for such a project myself.

said on 28 May 2005 at 10:42

Ever read the invisibles by Grant Morrison. Sounds like you need a fictionsuit!

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